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08/18/87 Dennis Brazinski, v. Transport Service Company

August 18, 1987

DENNIS BRAZINSKI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

TRANSPORT SERVICE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

513 N.E.2d 76, 159 Ill. App. 3d 1061, 111 Ill. Dec. 830 1987.IL.1193

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William Kelly, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE STAMOS delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO, P.J., and HARTMAN, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE STAMOS

Plaintiff-appellant, David Brazinski (Brazinski), appeals from the circuit court's granting of defendant's, Transport Service Company's (Transport), motion for summary judgment.

Brazinski was employed by Transport as a truck driver from October 28, 1978, until August 25, 1983. On April 21, 1983, Brazinski filed a wage claim with the Illinois Department of Labor asserting that he and other drivers were wrongfully denied wages by Transport's policies, which he believed violated the collective bargaining agreement. Brazinski alleged a violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, which provides guidelines for employers paying wages due non-governmental employees. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 39m-1 et seq.

Transport was notified by the Department of Labor that Brazinski had filed a wage claim and that the matter was scheduled for a hearing before the Department of Labor on August 26, 1983.

On August 24, 1983, Bill Hovel, a Transport dispatcher, called Brazinski at home and instructed him to drive a load from Chicago to Peoria, Illinois. Brazinski informed Hovel that he had to be in Chicago on August 26, 1983. Brazinski asked Hovel if there was a backhaul (an additional assignment given after the initial assignment is completed) on the load. Hovel replied, "No, at this point there is no backhaul on it."

On August 25, 1983, Brazinski left Chicago Central Terminal, his home terminal, with a load bound for Peoria, Illinois. At the Peoria terminal, Brazinski was dispatched by Transport to deliver a load to Decatur, Illinois. Upon his arrival in Decatur on August 25, Brazinski was instructed by William Berger (Berger), the assistant terminal manager in Chicago, to take a load to Fremont, Ohio. Brazinski informed Berger that he had to be in Chicago on August 26. Berger stated to Brazinski that "if he didn't take the load, he was going to voluntarily quit his job." After two other telephone conversations with Berger, Brazinski decided not to take the load to Ohio because he would then miss the hearing scheduled for August 26, 1983, on his wage claim. Brazinski took a bus to attend his wage claim hearing in Chicago and was not subsequently employed by Transport.

Upon returning to Chicago, Brazinski filed a grievance protesting his discharge on the grounds that he was fired in retaliation for making his wage claim. On September 21, 1983, a hearing was held by a six-person joint union-employer arbitration committee on Brazinski's grievance. While there is no record of the proceedings leading to the committee's decision, Brazinski stated in his affidavit that the grievance committee refused to hear his argument that he was fired because he filed a wage claim and explicitly instructed him that its jurisdiction was limited to issues arising under the labor contract. The committee determined that the "discharge be upheld on the basis that it was a voluntary resignation by his refusal to accept work."

Brazinski's first contention is that Federal law does not preempt his claim of retaliatory discharge. Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, (section 301) provides that Federal courts shall have jurisdiction over suits for breach of collective bargaining agreements. (29 U.S.C. sec. 185(a) (1982).) While State courts also have jurisdiction over section 301 claims, principles of Federal labor law preempt inconsistent State law. (Local 174, Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co. (1962), 369 U.S. 95, 104, 7 L. Ed. 2d 593, 599-600, 82 S. Ct. 571, 577.) In Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck (1985), 471 U.S. 202, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 105 S. Ct. 1904, the Supreme Court held that Federal labor law preempted a State tort action against an employer and insurer. The employee-plaintiff alleged that defendants acted in bad faith in handling the employee's claim for nonoccupational disability insurance as provided for in the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The court determined that Federal law preempted the State tort action because resolution of the claim required an interpretation of the parties' contract:

"The interests in interpretive uniformity and predictability that require that labor-contract disputes be resolved by reference to federal law also require that the meaning given a contract phrase or term be subject to uniform federal interpretation. Thus, questions relating to what the parties to a labor agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to flow from breaches of that agreement, must be resolved by reference to uniform federal law, whether such questions arise in the context of a suit for breach of contract or in a suit alleging liability in tort." Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck (1985), 471 U.S. 202, 211, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 215, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1911.

The court concluded that section 301 clearly requires preemption of a State-created tort when the existence of a duty is dependent upon the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. The court found that the existence of a duty by the employer to pay insurance claims in good faith was directly dependent upon the terms of the contract. Therefore, the court determined that Federal courts had jurisdiction to determine if the parties' collective bargaining agreement contained a covenant of good faith. The court, however, emphasized that "not every dispute concerning employment, or tangentially involving a provision of a collective-bargaining agreement, is pre-empted by section 301 or other provisions of the federal labor law." (Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck (1985), 471 U.S. 202, 211, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 215, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1911.) In addition, the court stated that it would be inconsistent with congressional intent under section 301 to preempt State rules that proscribe conduct, or establish rights and obligations, independent of a labor contract. (Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck (1985), 471 U.S. 202, 212, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, ...


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